Theatre Terms | Page 41 | AACT

Theatre Terms

image of question markAs a service to the theatre community, AACT provides over 1000 definitions of theatrical terms.  Fully searchable, our glossary is helpful for technical staff, directors, actors, producers, or anyone wanting to better understand the inner workings of theatre.

Click on a letter (A-Z) below to find terms beginning with the specified letter, OR enter a word in "Search for Term" OR search by entering a word in "Words in Definition." For example, entering the word "curtain" would display all words whose definition includes that word. (Note: If the A-Z or word search has been activated, it must be reset before using "Search for Term" or "Words in Definition." To reset the A-Z search: Click Here)

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Term Definition Link
PROFESSIONAL RELEASE A play licensed only to professional companies.
PROFESSIONAL RIGHTS A professional company is one that pays a salary to actors, directors, designers and other staff, whether or not the company is profit or not-for-profit. Rights for professional companies are normally based on a percentage of the gross, with an up-front payment against profits. The payment--based on seating capacity and ticket prices--is credited toward the total royalty due at the end of the run, typically based on 8-10% of the gross box office receipts, to be calculated and reported weekly.
PROFILE 1) The body position of an actor whose right or left side is turned toward the audience. 2) A shaped piece of scenery added to the edge of a flat instead of a straight edge. Also known as a cutout. 3) A type of instrument with at least one plane-convex lens which projects the outline of any chosen shape placed in its gate, sometimes with a variable degree of hardness/softness. Profiles include four beam-shaping metal shutters, a gate to take an iris or gobo and an adjustment to make the beam smooth and even ("flat") or hot in the center ("peaky").
PROJECTION The throwing of an image onto the stage by means of light, for an optical or design effect.
PROMPT To tell an actor what speech or action is required next of him, especially if he forgets during rehearsal or performance.
PROMPT BOOK Master copy of the script or score, containing all the actor moves and technical cues, used by stage management to control the performance. Sometimes known as the "book."
PROMPT DESK The control center of the show. The desk should contain most of the following: a clock, low level lighting, a flat surface for the prompt script, communication facility to other technical departments, a phone for emergency, rear and front of house calls system and cue light controls.
PROMPTER A person who is charged with prompting.
PROP or PROPS Short for "property." Furnishings, set dressings, and all items large and small which cannot be classified as scenery, electrics or wardrobe. Props handled by actors are known as hand props, props which are kept in an actors costume are known as personal props.
Property Usually shortened to "prop" or "props." See cross-reference link for more information.
PROPPING The task, usually performed by stage management, of finding, borrowing, buying props for the production.
PROPS TABLE Table in convenient offstage area on which properties are prepared prior to a performance and to which they should be returned after use.
PROSCENIUM The opening in the wall that stands between stage and auditorium in some theatres; the picture frame through which the audience sees the play. The "fourth wall." Also proscenium arch.
PROSCENIUM STAGE A stage framed by a proscenium arch. This is the most common type of stage (others include thrust and arena.)
PUBLIC ADDRESS SYSTEM The venue auditorium sound system. Usually shortened to "PA."
PUBLISHER More accurately, in most cases a publisher/agent. In many cases the publisher is also the representative through which one seeks a license. However, not all publishers are representatives (and not all representative are publishers). For example, Samuel French, Dramatists Play Service, I.E. Clark, and Music Theater International publish scripts and offer licenses. Book publishers such as Heinemann and Smith & Krause publish plays, but do not license productions. However, their books do include licensing information.
PULL FROM STOCK Retrieve scenic units, costumes, props, etc. from storage of a theatre company's stock from past productions for use in an upcoming production.
PUNCH LINE or PUNCHLINE A line of dialogue that carries particular emphasis for dramatic or comic effect. In comedy, a series of lines build one on the other, leading to the final line that brings the big laugh--the punch line.
PVC TAPE Plastic insulating tape used for taping cables to bars and for securing coiled cables. Neater and cheaper than gaffer's tape. Also known as LX tape.


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